Drinking is hard to reduce and harder to quit. We’ve compiled some handy tips to help you cut down on this vice and reap the innumerable benefits of doing so!
Why Cutting Down on Drinking is Never a Bad Idea
Cutting down on alcohol or taking a month-long break may be on your mind. It’s easy to take it a bit too far with alcohol, a bit too often, and taking a break or cutting down is never a bad idea. It’s so easy to fall into habits of over-indulging because alcohol is a shortcut to relaxing from the stressful experiences of our day-to-day life, and the substance hits our brain with all kinds of endorphins that leave us wanting more. Further, considering how normalised and encouraged drinking is within Australian culture, sometimes we don’t always take the time to address our own drinking patterns and habits. While it may not be obvious until we have made the conscious effort to cut down, drinking too much can affect health and life in more ways than you may realise – in many spheres of one’s life, like socially, health-wise, and functionally. Physically, alcohol affects your weight, and sleep, and is considered a carcinogen. Mentally, it affects your mood and emotional regulation in the long term. Socially and functionally, when you overindulge it costs you more than you realise – financially, but also socially – we all know alcohol lowers your inhibitions and has the tendency to make you act in ways you wouldn’t when you’re sober.
6 Tips for Cutting Down
1. Take Note of When You Drink
It’s helpful to understand your triggers for drinking or situations where you find you’re habitually picking up a drink. It may be when you knock off from work in order to de-stress from the day, when you hang out with a certain group of people, or when you experience a tough emotion or feeling that you’re not used to facing. If you can identify when you usually drink or over-indulge in drinking, it’s easier to put plans in place for those specific situations.
2. Set Limits
You don’t have to compromise your social life to reduce or stop drinking. Once you’ve identified where you are likely to take it too far with drinking, set yourself some achievable limits for the night or event. It can be handy to drive to an event, so you have to limit yourself to something like one drink an hour in order to drive home. You can also set alarms on your phone to remind yourself to alternate drinks with water. If you feel comfortable, you can let your friends or family know you’re limiting yourself to a certain number of drinks for the night and ask them to help you keep accountable.
3. Bring a Fun Alternative
As more and more people embrace sobriety or cut down on drinking, there are plenty of non-alcoholic drinks on the menu. Most venues now have fun non-alcoholic mocktails and beers, and some other progressive venues have non-alcoholic spirits, too. If you’re at a mate’s house or what might be a boozy picnic, bring your own drinks that you enjoy so you’re not fixated on missing out on the habit of holding a drink. Bring your favourite soft drinks, or mocktail ingredients, and share it around, too, so you still feel a part of things.
4. Suggest Connecting Outside Pub
If you’re really struggling with maintaining these limits after one or two drinks and your inhibitions are lower, it could be time to be vulnerable and explain to your mates that you need to spend some time with them outside of temptation – i.e the pub. It can be easy to fall into the habit of always catching up with your nearest and dearest over a drink, but good friends will understand that you want to engage in some other forms of hanging out, instead. There is a myriad of things you can do that don’t involve alcohol – getting active through cycling, walking, or surfing; viewing art or theatre; going shopping or crafting at home – and these activities provide space for a deeper connection with your friends, too.
5. Plan Your Week
If you’re really used to your work week wrapping up at the pub, or popping open a bottle of wine at 5 pm, planning to do other activities during this time is imperative. Maybe you’d like to spend your usual Friday night at the pub learning a new hobby instead, or you can get into the habit of walking or cooking with a friend after work. Alcohol is a fast-track way to get a buzz of endorphins and feel ultra-connected to those around us. Doing things like exercise or being creative can achieve these things, too – they just take a little longer, with a little more effort. But achieving a greater sense of well-being through these activities is all the more rewarding, without all the horrid side effects.
6. Engage in Other De-Stressing Techniques
Alcohol is a surefire way to feel more relaxed, euphoric and capable of dealing with problems. Over-indulging or becoming addicted almost always has some component of anaesthetising the way we are really feeling – even if that is something as small as feeling socially isolated or awkward at a gathering and needing to feel a boost of liquid confidence. Identify the stressful situations and uncomfortable feelings that may lead to overdoing it, and find ways to cope with these experiences outside of alcohol. Things like exercise, journaling, being vulnerable with friends and family, doing something community-minded like dance classes or volunteering, and practising mindfulness are all healthy ways to cope with these feelings.
If You Want to Quit Drinking Completely
It’s important to know that if you are a heavy drinker or believe you may be dependent on alcohol, then consulting with your GP or a medical professional before you cut down or quit is imperative. For those that are dependent on alcohol, alcohol withdrawals can be uncomfortable at best, and fatal at worst. It’s dangerous to attempt this by yourself, so don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or reach out for support (see below) to assist with the process.
Alcohol withdrawals can involve tremors or shake, nausea, anxiety, headaches, hallucinations, or seizures. This is why it’s so important to involve medical professionals in the process of quitting. They may prescribe medication for you to take to help the process of cutting back and eventually quitting, or they may suggest a clinic-based detox if they think that is best for your situation. There is no shame in reaching out for help for what has become a medical problem. You can speak with your GP or reach out for help at:
- National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline: 1800 250 015 (available 24/7). This service is free and offers confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, offers support, information, counselling and referral to services.
- Family Drug Support (FDS): 1300 368 186 (available 24/7). This service provides support and information to families, friends and carers of people who have problematic alcohol and other drug use across Australia.
- Stimulant Treatment Line: 9361 8088 or 1800 101 188 (outside Sydney) (available 24/7). This service is a confidential service offering information, education and counselling around your own or someone else’s stimulant use.
- Opioid Treatment Line (OTL): 1800 642 428 (Monday to Friday: 9:30am to 5:00pm). This service provides information, advice and referral to opioid treatment options.
- Counselling Online (24/7). Online counselling and support for people with dependence.
- Alcoholics Anonymous Australia 1300 222 222 or visit here
- Narcotics Anonymous Australia 1300 652 820 or visit here
- Quitline: 13 78 48 or visit here
- Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78 (24hrs)
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Sobriety App – I Am Sober is an addiction buddy useful for quitting any activity or substance.
- For local services and centres in your area, visit the Lifeline Service Finder Directory.
15 Benefits When You Quit Drinking
5 Mental Health benefits
1. Improve Overall Mental Health
Alcohol is a depressant, and negatively regulates the neurotransmitters responsible for good mental health. Reducing drinking can drastically improve depression and anxiety symptoms.
2. No More Moral Hangovers
How awful is the feeling of waking up hungover and immediately trying to recall your actions from the night before? If you keep a cap on how much you’re drinking, you’ll no longer wake up and over analyse every move you made the night before!
3. Increase in Rational Decision-Making and Impulse Control
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and makes you act out of character and do things you regret. Minimise the risk of making poor decisions and negatively impacting your relationships by reducing your alcohol intake, and this will have a flow-on effect of improving your decision-making in sober life, too.
4. Mental Stability
Alcohol can greatly affect your mood and cause your mood to swing wildly across the week depending on if you’re drinking, hungover, or sober. Experience better stable moods when you reduce or cut out drinking.
5. Develop a Clearer Picture of Your Mental Health
Drinking serves a great purpose in numbing hard or difficult emotions. By removing this bandaid that’s plonked over your difficult emotions, you’ll have an easier time identifying the areas of your life or mental health that need addressing.
5 Lifestyle benefits
1. Improve Sleep Pattern
Alcohol greatly messes with our circadian rhythm and sleep quality. Alcohol reduces the amount of time we spend in deep, restorative sleep, and spending too much time out at the pub and getting to sleep late disrupts our circadian rhythm and leaves us feeling tired and depleted of energy the next day. Even cutting out a few days of drinking per week will greatly increase your sleep quality.
2. Healthier Eating Habits
Being drunk or hungover makes us crave fatty and sugary foods. By cutting down on alcohol, you are already on track to making healthier food choices throughout the week.
3. More Money Can Be Saved
It can be an eye-opening experience to calculate how much you’re spending on booze during the week and calculating this into a yearly spend. By cutting down on drinking, you are inevitably saving possibly hundreds of dollars per week.
4. Improvements in Relationships
By shifting focus from drinking to other activities that you can share with friends and family, your quality of relationships and connection improves, as well as being able to remember all the quality conversations you are having during time spent together.
5. More Time for Hobbies and Personal Development
By gifting yourself the additional time in the week, you’ll have so many more hours to spend doing the things you love that aren’t drinking.
5 Physical Health benefits
1. A Stronger Immune System
Alcohol lowers your immune system, so by reducing or quitting your drinking, you are giving your body the best chance of fighting disease and illness
2. A Healthier Liver
We know alcohol is processed by the liver and can irreversibly damage it if you’re constantly drinking large quantities. By reducing drinking, you are giving your liver a chance to do its job to its fullest capacity.
3. Decreased Cancer Risk
Alcohol is actually carcinogenic and reduces our body’s natural ability to fight against cancer cells. Quitting drinking actually reduces your risk of numerous types of cancers.
4. Improved Memory and Cognitive Function
Forget living in that alcohol-induced, hungover phase. Reducing your drinking will help you focus better, think more sharply and improve your memory.
5. Reduced Cardiovascular Risk
Drinking lots increases your risk of heart attack and stroke over the years. Reducing your intake makes your heart far healthier and far happier!
How Can Homage Help?
Homage nursing and support work can help you achieve your goals of safely quitting drinking. There are support workers available to help you with transport to and from doctor’s appointments or specialist clinics if transporting yourself is something you’re dealing with. If your GP or specialist is supporting you through a home-based detox, trained nurses from Homage can assist you with this at home – as you will need all the support you can get during this journey.
Provide the best care to your loved one today!
- DrinkAware. (2020). Drinkaware. Drinkaware.co.uk. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/how-to-reduce-your-drinking/how-to-stop-drinking-alcohol-completely#drsarahjarvisdiscusseshowtostopdrinkingcompletely
- Lifeline. (2021). Substance Misuse and Addiction. Lifeline. https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/substance-misuse-and-addiction/